How to Bathe a Dog Who Hates Baths

By Sarah Hinds Friedl on October 8th, 2020

Let’s set the scene: it’s time to bathe your dog. You’ve run the warm water, set up all the bathtime equipment, and pulled out a few clean towels to swaddle up your freshly bathed pup.

But Fido is nowhere to be found. 

If your pup is terrified of bath day, then you know what happens next. You search the house looking for your cowering pup, only to have to drag them, squirming and whining to the bathroom. 

Bathtime itself is a total disaster: the bathroom floor is soaked from the many escape attempts, and you were barely able to dry your dog off before they bolted out, tracking water through the rest of the house.

But dog bathtime doesn’t have to be such a nightmare. By learning why your dog is resistant to being bathed and implementing some tricks for keeping your dog relaxed during their bath, you can change dog bath day for good.

Here’s the BreezeGuard guide to a better bathtime routine.

Step One: See things from your pup’s perspective
Your dog’s fear of bathtime might surprise you. After all, you might have a dog who loves to roll around in puddles or has been known to crash your neighbor’s backyard pool. How can they adore water so much and still hate bathtime?

To understand the difference, you have to consider things through your doggo’s point of view. For them, diving face first into a freezing-cold lake is much more appealing than a bath. And here’s why:

In the first scenario, your pup is in control. Even if that water is ice cold, they can choose to jump in boldly, splash around, and leave when they’re cold or losing interest. 

But bathtime is a completely different world. Instead of wide open spaces, your pooch is forced into a small room, with a slippery floor, and no exit. Plus, bathwater, which is unnaturally warm and comes from a loud, shiny faucet, doesn’t look anything like water they would find in the wild.

To make matters worse, if your dog has ever had a negative bathtime experience, either from slipping and falling or simply being forced to bathe against their will, they’ve likely developed a deep-rooted fear of being bathed.

With all of this in mind, it’s easy to see why your dog may be hesitant or downright terrified when it comes to bathtime. So how can you make the experience more positive?

Step Two: Redefine bathtime for your dog
Clearly, bathtime needs a rebrand if you want to bathe your dog without a fuss. The key is going to be breaking down your pup’s negative associations with bathing so that they view the tub more favorably.

Here are a few tricks to make bathtime more comfortable:

  • Start slow: If your dog already dreads the bathroom, you’re going to have to do some background work before you can think of adding in water and bubbles. This is going to mean slowly reconditioning your dog to be comfortable in the bathroom by using plenty of treats and positive verbal praise. You can also try feeding or playing in or near the bathroom so that your furry friend can start to see this room more positively.
  • Throw in some bathtime supplies: Once your dog is more comfortable being in the bathroom, then you can add in some of the bathtime elements—still without giving them a full bath! Maybe you turn on the faucet, place their shampoo on the edge of the bathtub, or put out the clean towels to set the stage. Remember that your pup is a master at noticing when things are out of place, so it’s a good idea to get them accustomed to these small details.
  • When trying bathtime again, preempt it with some exercise: you want your pup to be full of endorphins and free of high-strung energy, so make sure to take them for a nice, long walk or run before bathtime. 

Note: if you’re driving to the dog park or your favorite exercise spot with your pup before bathtime, make sure that you have BreezeGuard screens installed! You’d be surprised that your dog can anticipate when a bath is coming and try to make an escape.

  • Prefill buckets instead of using the faucet: Many dogs are bothered by the noise of the showerhead or bath faucet, so they’ll appreciate you filling up a few buckets before they enter the room instead of turning on the tap during bathtime.
  • Get a grip: Anti-slip appliques or bathmats are a great way to give your dog the grip they need to feel more confident in the bath.
  • Keep it quick: While your dog is rethinking their relationship to the bath, you should try to minimise their time in the bath. Maybe the first run is just a quick rinse. Once they’re comfortable with that, you can introduce shampoos and gradually lengthen the time in the tub.
  • Give them plenty of praise: By far, one of the best things that you can do for dog bathtime is set the tone with a good attitude, verbal praise and plenty of treats. Your body language will let your pup know that everything is a-okay.

It’s tempting to rush through the bathtime rebranding phase, but trust us: this takes time. Allow your dog to set the pace for redefining their relationship with the bathroom so that they can feel more in control and less fearful of the tub.

Step Three: Consider some creative alternatives
If you feel like you’ve jumped through hoops, and you’re still not able to convince your dog that bathtime isn’t the end of the world, there are a few alternatives that could help. Consider trying these bathtime options:

  • Move the bath outside. As we mentioned, one of the stress triggers of bathtime is being in a confined space. Moving bathtime outside during the warmer months can help some dogs feel more comfortable. Again, the important thing is to make it a positive, fun experience. Incorporate a fun game of catch or tug-of-war to distract them from the fact that they’re getting shampooed.
  • Buddy up. Is your friend’s dog cool as a cucumber during bathtime? Then invite them over to teach your pup how it’s done! As long as the two dogs get along well, your pooch will pick up on the relaxed attitude of their canine bathmate. 
  • Bring in the pros. There’s no shame in calling for backup. Having a dog trainer come to your home and show you the ropes will save a lot of time and discomfort for you and your dog. 

You’re on your way to a more peaceful dog bathtime!
With a little empathy and positive association-building, even the most bath-resistant doggo can come around. It’ll take time, but you and your dog will be glad to put the days of bathtime battles behind you!

For more dog care tips and tricks, make sure to browse the BreezeGuard blog!

Comments are closed.